Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons / (c) Horia Varlan
[Note: This is a blog post my wife and I collaborated on for our church's blog. Thought I'd repost it here.
It’s not news to any of us that we live in a fast-paced world, and one of the main victims of our mile-a-minute lifestyle is family. Being intentional about creating a healthy family life is vital to our children’s spiritual, mental, and emotional development. Think about it in terms of an ecosystem. We have the ability to create so much of the landscape upon which our children live life. For us, this means striving to create an atmosphere of health, an atmosphere that’s conducive to both growth and fun. We’ve got a lot to learn, and we’ve certainly tried stuff that didn’t work. But we’ve also had some “wins” here and there, and we wanted to pass them on.
Here’s what we do that’s been effective at creating this healthy family landscape.
1. Provide Predictability In Everyday Living
Consistency helps children feel grounded. Our morning and evening routines are the same each day, barring special exceptions. We move in different directions when we start the day, but we eat breakfast together before heading off to school. Dinners are family affairs where we always ask the girls to share the best and worst part of their day. Bedtime is Bible stories, prayer, and lullabies (until they outgrow them, which, thankfully, they haven’t yet).
2. Always Be Teaching
Shaping our children’s worldview and teaching them to be discerners of culture is an ongoing process. The discussion never stops, whether it’s building on what they’re learning at church, or discussing why the woman on the Victoria’s Secret billboard is in her underwear. Parents are the key influencers of their children’s spiritual identity. That’s why we’re always looking to teach.
3. Date Your Kids
You read that right. Dads, date your daughters. Mothers, date your sons. Take them to breakfast a few times a month, or to a movie once every few weeks. Hang out. Have fun. But shower them with encouragement. Be sure to allow them space to talk about them. Make them the focus of all your attention.
4. Invest In Your Spouse In Front Of Your Children
Let your children see you accept your spouse’s influence. Let them see you work through disagreements respectfully. Let them see you living out the fruits of the Spirit. Actually say to them, “Do you know that I will always be married to your mom/dad?” Reinforce over and over again what a Christ-centered marriage looks like.
5. Value Shared Experiences Vs. Valuing Stuff
If you look at our budget, you’ll notice that a higher percentage of our expendable income is spent on experiences, not stuff. Our calendar backs this up. For us, it’s simple: our kids have enough. One more [fill-in-the-blank with clothes, electronics, sporting equipment, etc.] won’t positively shape their lives. But creating memories, both large and small, with the family will.
6. Create Traditions And Stick To Them
Traditions anchor individuals to family. Each year after we’re done decorating the Christmas tree, we turn off the lights and listen to Silent Night. We go to the same vacation spots each year. We have regular family movies nights. We do birthdays a specific way. We have family board game nights. Traditions, no matter how big or small, go a long way in building a healthy family environment.
7. Embrace Creativity
We work hard to encourage our kids’ creativity. We constantly have all types of music playing. We encourage the girls to do shows for us or to make up stories. They draw pictures for the children we sponsor through Compassion International. We even let them shoot videos on our phones. It allows them so many ways to express themselves, and often, to express praise to God.
8. Surround Your Children With Scripture
We try to make sure God’s Word is heard and seen throughout our home. We not only read the Bible, but we have Scripture taped to our fridge, and often play praise music that is based off passages of Scripture. We can always improve in this area, but we try to keep the Bible in the front of our girl’s hearts and minds each day.
9. Make Church Involvement And Service Important
We want our girls to be around the Body as much as possible, to interact with friends who share their faith and to see adults who model Christ-likeness. That’s why we go to great lengths to help our children be as active as possible in Church. Same goes for service. They love going downtown with Urban Purpose and have packed meals with Feed My Starving Children. The impact these experiences have made on them is profound.
10. Encourage Pursuit Of Their Passions
We try hard to allow our girls to be who they will be and to pursue what they will pursue. We have only made them participate in certain activities on a few occasions and only as a trial basis. On the other hand, we work hard to equip and encourage them to seek out independent activities that suit their personalities, even if it’s not in line with what we would choose for them.
As we mentioned, we don’t get it right all the time. And we’ve tried our share of stuff that didn’t work. But these concepts have really helped our girls develop in an environment that allows them the freedom and the opportunity to evolve into who God is making them to be.